American Experience: Jesse Owens

August 1, 2012 4 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Jesse Owens has become an icon for his performance at the 1936 Olympic Games, where he won four gold medals as Adolph Hitler watched from the stands. In this episode of American Experience, the life of Owens is explored in depth and we’re shown a more complete vision of who he was. While the stories of his athletic triumphs at the Olympics have been told and retold, this program takes us back to Owens’ youth and shows his entire life, to well beyond the Olympic performances. The program also looks at the political pressures that surrounded the 1936 Olympics and how that atmosphere impacted Owens. From his birth as the son of a sharecropper to his rise to athletic glories to his struggles upon his return, this program offers a complete, in depth look at the man that was Jesse Owens.

While I have seen other documentaries about Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics, few beyond that event to offer a more wide scope of Owens’ life. This American Experience episode wants to tell the entire story of Owens, from his youth until his death, when cancer claimed his life. The 1936 Olympics is one of the more unusual, historic events in the Olympic annals, with Adolph Hitler in attendance and all of the chaos that unfolded around the games. This program was able to get across a lot of interesting information, but it wasn’t a dull experience at all. At an hour, the piece is brisk and wastes no time, so every minute is filled with insight and that makes it stand out. The program also takes a look at Owens’ life after the Olympics, which not many other documentaries have, so that was interesting content. If you have an interest in the Olympics or history in general, American Experience: Jesse Owens is well worth a look.

Video: How does it look?

This program is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This program pulls from various sources, some of which are more refined than others. But visual perfection isn’t a concern with this kind of piece and I am sure the best elements were used, so no complaints there. The program always looks good, with no serious flaws to mention. If you’ve seen similar documentary programs, then you know about what to expect.

Audio: How does it sound?

A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is present, but this is of course not an explosive mix. The front channels handle the burden and the program sounds fine. The main focus is on dialogue, via various interviews and narration. All of the speakers can be heard from in clear, crisp fashion. So even in older interviews, all of the vocals come through well. There isn’t a lot more I can talk about here, as the program’s needs are quite covered.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes no bonus materials.

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